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Answering “the Known Men”: Bishop Reginald Pecock and Mr. Richard Hooker

  • Charles W. Brockwell (a1)

Extract

There are both striking similarities and significant differences between the Lollards of the fifteenth century and the radical Puritans of the sixteenth. Both rejected the authority of the established church in England, and both suffered for such boldness. With the passage of De heretico comburendo in 1401 the so-called Wycliffites were liable to inquisitorial proceedings and punishments. Lollards were now felons as well as heretics. In 1406, by means of a supplement to the 1401 legislation, the laymen in Parliament at last took heed of the warning from the churchmen that confiscation of church possessions threatened all lordship, secular as well as spiritual. Under a constitution drafted at the Oxford Assembly from November to December, 1407 and republished at St. Paul's in 1409, any preacher other than a priest in his own parish was required to obtain a license from the ordinary or the archbishop in order to preach. Arundel further decreed that such preachers were to speak only on the subjects set forth in Peckham's constitution, Ignorantia sacerdotum. As the chief legal instrument of this English Inquisition, De heretico comburendo remained in effect until set aside by Henry VIII. It was later revived by Mary, and finally repealed by Elizabeth.

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1. The text of De heretico comburendo may be seen in Gee, Henry and Hardy, William John, Documents Illustrative of English Church History Compiled from Original Sources (London, 1910), pp. 133137. The action of 1406 is recorded in Rotuli Parlimentorum ut et Petitiones et Placita in Parliamento, 6 vols. (np., n.d.), 3: 583584. For the Oxford constitution see Bullard, John V. and Bell, Harold C., eds., Lyndwood's Provinciale (London, 1929), V.v. 13. The constitution was apparently not meant to apply to the friars; see Aston, Margaret, “Lollardy and Sedition, 1381–1431,” Past and Present 27 (1960):14. For Ignorantia sacerdotum see Bullard, and Bell, , Provinciale, I.i.1, or Petry, Ray C., ed., A History of Christianity (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1962), pp. 337338.

2. For the act against Puritans see Gee, and Hardy, , Documents, pp. 492498.

3. Dickens, Arthur G., Lollards and Protestants in the Diocese of York, 1509–1558 (London, 1959; rpt. with corrections, 1966); Thomson, John A. F., The Later Lollards, 1414–1520 (London, 1965; rpt. with corrections, 1967); Horst, Irvin, The Radical Brethren, Bibliotheca Humanistica et Reformatorica, vol. 2 (Nieuwkoop, 1972), pp. 5657;Luoma, John K., “Restitution or Reformation? Cartwright and Hooker on The Elizabethan Church,” Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church 46 (1977): 101. Foxe, John, The Acts and Monuments, ed. Cattley, Stephen R., 8 vols. (London, 1837).Pecock, Reginald, The Repressor of Over Much Blaming of the Clergy, ed. Babington, Churchill, 2 vols. (London, 1860), 1.11, p. 53. This is the only printed edition of Repressor and pagination is continuous throughout its two volumes. Citations to Repressor will give part and chapter followed by page numbers. Hooker, Richard, The Folger Library Edition of the Works of Richard Hooker, ed. Hill, W. Speed (Cambridge, Mass., 1977–),Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, 2 vols., ed. Edelen, Georges (1977), Pref. 3.14. Citations to this work will give book, chapter and section.

4. Taylor, Henry O., Thought and Expression in the Sixteenth Century, 2 vols., 2nd rev. ed. (New York, 1920), 2:180 (italics in the original). Hallam, Henry, View of the State of Europe during the Middle Ages, 2 vols. (London, 1818), 2:537.Shirley, Frederick J., Richard Hooker and Contemporary Political Ideas (London, 1949), pp. 39, 212; see also pp. 68, 176.

5. In their probable chronological order Pecock's surviving works are: The Reule of Crysten Religioun, ed. Greet, William C. (London, 1927);The Donet, ed. Hitchcock, Elsie V. (London, 1921);Poore Mennis Myrrour, an extract of part 1 of The Donet, collated and published in the same volume as The Donet; “Abbrevatio Reginaldi Pecok,” printed in the second volume of The Repressor; The Folewer to the Donet, ed. Hitchcock, Elsie V. (London, 1924);The Repressor of Over Much Blaming of the Clergy (see note 3); and The Book of Faith, ed. Morison, John L. (Glasgow, 1909). John Foxe printed a summary rather than a transcript of a few pages from The Book of Faith in “Collectanea Quaedam ex Reginaldi Pecoki,” Commentarii Rerum in Ecclesia Gestarum (Strasbourg, 1553), pp. 200205. Thomas Kelly thought it possible that fols. 27b–28b of British Library MS. Roy. 17 A.xxvi were part of the bishop's lost Book of Faith, Hope, and Charity. Under wartime conditions Kelly did not have access to the manuscript, otherwise he would have seen that the fragment he refers to is an integral part of a larger work, a handbook for parish priests. There is nothing extraordinary about the work, nor does it have any characteristic Pecock ideas and expressions. Both his editors and other writers generally date the bishop's surviving works between 1443 and 1456. Kelly, however, believed that the earliest of them, The Reule of Crysten Religioun, was in circulation by 1433. See Kelly, Thomas, “Reginald Pecock: A Contribution to his Biography,” (M.A. thesis, University of Manchester, 1945), pp. 4243, 129130.

6. Reginald Pecock was born in Wales sometime during the first half of the I 390s. He was a fellow of Oriel College, Oxford for about ten years, from the mid-1410s to the mid-1420s. His ecclesiastical appointments were: rector of St. Michael's, Gloucester (1424–1431); rector of St. Michael Riola and master of Whittington College, London (1431–1444); bishop of St. Asaph (1444–1450); bishop of Chichester (1450–1458/9). He lived the last year or so of his life under house arrest at Thorney Abbey, Cambridgeshire and died in 1460 or 1461. He was allowed to incept for the Doctor's degree in theology from Oxford without performing regency sometime before 1444. The most recent monograph on the bishop is Patrouch, Joseph F. JrReginald Pecock (New York, 1970). The standard biography is Green, Vivian H. H., Bishop Reginald Pecock: A Study in Ecclesiastical History and Thought (Cambridge, 1945).

7. The Works of the Rev. Daniel Waterland, D.D. … To Which is prefixed a review of the author's life and writings by William Van Mildert, D.D. …, 3rd ed., 6 vols. (Oxford, 1856), 6:253, 259, 427; see Babington's edition of The Repressor of Over Much Blaming of the Clergy cited in note 3.

8. Munz, Peter, The Place of Hooker in the History of Thought (London, 1952), pp. 4142,45.

9. On moderate Puritanism see Coolidge, John S., The Pauline Renaissance in England (Oxford, 1970), pp. 122, 141151;Collinson, Patrick, The Elizabethan Puritan Movement (Berkeley, 1967), pp. 188190, 222239, 401; and Breward, Ian, ed., The Work of William Perkins (Appleford, England, 1970), pp. 2022.

10. Pecock, , Repressor, 1.10, p. 52; 1.20, p. 128.

11. Pecock gives only three Lollard errors respecting the use of the Bible in Repressor 1.1., pp. 5–7. The fourth is set out in Repressor 1.18, p. 102, because the bishop says that it came to his attention after he had written the sections dealing with the other three.

12. Pecock, , Repressor, 1.1, p. 6. The “doom of reason” refers to rational judgment, especially when the syllogistic method is employed. The “lawe of kind” is the natural law. See the discussion in Green, , Pecock, pp. 129142.

13. Pecock, , Repressor, 1.1, p. 5.

14. Ibid., 1.2, p. 10; 1.4, p. 21.

15. Ibid., 1.3, p. 18, 1.4, p. 20; 1.5, p. 23.

16. Ibid., 1.10, pp. 49–50.

17. Ibid., 1.13, pp. 70–71.

18. Ibid., 1.7, p. 35; 1.8, pp. 37–38.

19. Ibid., 1.3, pp. 13–14; 1.5, pp. 25–26; 1.7, p. 35; 1.8, p. 39; 1.15, pp. 80, 83–84.

20. Ibid., 1.1., p. 6.

21. Ibid., 1.17, p. 93.

22. Ibid., 1.1, p. 7.

23. Ibid., 1.17, p. 99.

24. Ibid., 1.18, p. 102.

25. Ibid., 1.18, p. 103; 1.9, pp. 46–47.

26. Hooker, , Laws, pref. 3.24, 14, 910.

27. Ibid., 1.16.5.; pref. 7.3; 1.15.4; 1.16.5.

28. Ibid., 1.14.1; 1.12.1–2; 1.16.5.

29. Ibid., 2.1.2–4; 2.4.1; 3.8.3–5, 12–13.

30. Ibid., 3.1.7; 3.7.2; 3.8.3, 6, 8.

31. Ibid., 2.4.2; 2.7.3; 3.8.12–14.

32. Ibid., 3.8.10, 16.

33. Ibid., 2.8.6; 3.2.1; 2.5.3; 3.8.17; 2.7.8; 3.8.4.

34. This has been frequently misunderstood. The bishop's view, however, is plainly stated in The Reule of Crysten Religioun (prolog, p. 29; 1.12, p. 96), The Donet (prolog, pp. 3–4, 7) and The Book of Faith (1.7, p. 181; 1.8, pp. 208–211; 1.10, pp. 223, 231). A good account of the final unraveling of Pecock's career is Green, , Pecock, pp. 4961.

35. Hurnard, Naomi D., “Studies in Intellectual Life in England from the Middle of the Fifteenth Century till the Time of Colet” (D. Phil. thesis, Oxford University, 1935), p. 208. To be sure, Pecock seems to come dangerously close to unorthodox rationalism with his assertion that “doom of resoun in sum maner is worthier and perfiter than is Holi Writt through out al the Bible” (Repressor 1.15, p. 84). Many commentators have read that sentence without fully appreciating what the “sum maner” was that the bishop had in mind. Moreover, he expressly rejected arguments of philosophy which go against the articles of faith (The Book of Faith, 1.2, pp. 133–137). He would have agreed with Hooker that it is “utterly impossible, that the eye of man by itself should look into the bosom of divine Reason…” (Laws, 1.11.5); and also that “for our conversion or confirmation the force of natural reason is great. The force whereof unto those effects is nothing without grace” (Laws, 3.8.11).

36. Foxe, , Acts and Monuments, 3:724734.

37. Booty, John E., “Hooker and Anglicanism,” in Studies in Richard Hooker: Essays Preliminary to an Edition of His Works, ed. Hill, W. Speed (Cleveland, 1972), p. 215.

38. These same sources for Christian truth—scripture, tradition, experience and reason—provided the parameters of theology for the eighteenth-century folk-theologian and evangelist, John Wesley. One can reflect on whether Wesley, had he lived in the Middle Ages, would have won Francis' acceptance or suffered Wycliffe's rejection. Wesley's type of irregular loyalty to the established church placed a strain on his relationship with ecclesiastical authorities, but Methodism was far from the noncomformist tradition of Lollardy or Puritanism. This commonality of sources among persons so unlike as Pecock, Hooker and Wesley has implications for delineating the history of a theology that was indigenous to the church in England. Wesley was above all an Anglican; his theological gestalt was derived from the Homilies, the Articles and the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England.

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